At eight o’clock in the evening, the night was dark and the autumn rain was slightly cool.
Inside the brightly lit banquet hall of a five-star hotel, a charity gala was taking place.
The guests were mostly social elites, including celebrities from the entertainment and fashion circles.
Fragrances filled the air, and there was a lively atmosphere.
Qi Xing stood in front of the dessert table, admiring the exquisite-looking food with great interest.
He enjoyed tasting them while being out of place among the others who were busy socializing with just a glass of wine in hand.
A few minutes later, someone approached him and greeted, “Qi Xing, why did you come today? I thought you weren’t interested in this kind of occasion.”
Qi Xing glanced at the person, who was one of his good friends, Yang Kaiming.
“You’re here too,” he said.
“Do you think I want to be here?” the person made a face.
“My dad forced me to come, saying that I should get to know more people and broaden my horizons.
Spare me, please.”
Qi Xing looked in the direction of his gaze.
The person’s father was enthusiastically chatting and carrying favor with a big shot in front of him but the response he received from the bigshot lacked excitement.
“It’s not interesting,” Qi Xing commented impartially.
“I agree,” Yang Kaiming showed no sympathy for his own father being ignored.
“Are you here alone, Qi Xing?”
Qi Xing casually nodded, “Yeah.”
The invitation was from his parents, but with their personalities, they had no interest in such fake social gatherings.
So he came alone.
Yang Kaiming looked around and spotted a certain small celebrity in the crowd, realizing something, he teased Qi Xing, “Qi Xing, did you come for that person? Have you chased after them all the way here?”
Qi Xing chewed the last bite of the pastry in his mouth leisurely, his cold eyes fixed on the person mentioned by Yang Kaiming.
The person was now by the side of a certain wealthy lady, nodding and bowing, trying to please her without any trace of shyness and reservation as when facing Qi Xing.
“I gave up,” Qi Xing put down his plate, his mind disinterested.
Yang Kaiming wanted to ask further, but suddenly there was a commotion at the entrance of the banquet hall, and people around hurriedly welcomed the arrival of an important guest.
Lowering his voice, Yang Kaiming said, “It’s the one from the Ye family.”
Qi Xing swallowed the last bite of the pastry slowly, “Who is it?”
“Don’t you know?” Yang Kaiming’s voice became even lower.
“It’s Ye Xingzhou, the new head of the Ye family.
After his father passed away, the Ye family has been in constant internal conflicts for the past few months.
It only settled recently.
This guy is an illegitimate child, but he’s talented.
None of his brothers, uncles, or even his father’s generation could outshine him.”
As the words fell, Qi Xing saw the man entering the banquet hall.
He was tall and had strong facial features.
A pair of silver-framed glasses sat perfectly on his high nose.
The curve of his lips was just right, showing a cultured and elegant demeanor.
He looked like a true gentleman.
The big shot who had been indifferent to Yang Kaiming’s father was now shaking hands and exchanging pleasantries with him.
The man, surrounded by the admiration of others, treated the big shot with respect as if he were a junior, which seemed to please the other party.
Yang Kaiming marveled, “This Ye Xingzhou seems to have a good nature.
He should be easy to get along with.
How did he stand out among the wolves and tigers in the Ye family?”
Qi Xing didn’t pay attention to what he was saying at all.
His attention was completely drawn to another person beside Ye Xingzhou.
The young man was dressed casually in a simple suit.
He had a gentle and handsome appearance, but his presence was far inferior to the person next to him.
However, the smiling expression in his eyes inexplicably aroused Qi Xing’s interest.
“Who is that?” he asked.
Only then did Yang Kaiming notice the person who came with Ye Xingzhou.
After observing for a moment, he said, “I remember now.
He is a great painter from the Lin family.
It seems he’s quite famous, having held exhibitions both domestically and internationally.”
“Lin family?” Qi Xing asked.
Yang Kaiming explained, “They’re also from the upper-class circle in Huai City, but their family has fallen in recent years.
I heard they’re just an empty shell now, but if he can come with Ye Xingzhou tonight, he must still have some influence.”
Qi Xing smiled, “He looks good.”
Yang Kaiming was taken aback, “You mean Ye Xingzhou?”
Qi Xing corrected him, “The person next to him.”
Yang Kaiming took a closer look at the person Qi Xing mentioned.
Indeed, he wasn’t bad, but in his opinion, he couldn’t compare to Ye Xingzhou, let alone Qi Xing himself.
“Qi Xing, are you saying that after giving up on that small celebrity, you’ve found a new crush?” Yang Kaiming asked.
Qi Xing raised an eyebrow, “Is there a problem?”
Yang Kaiming quickly reminded him, “People like them who consider themselves ‘old money’ in the upper-class circles of Huai City have always looked down on us nouveau riche.
It’s better for you, Qi Xing, not to get your hopes up.”
“What ‘old money’? If we go back a few decades, which family’s ancestors didn’t come from humble origins? They’re just thinking too highly of themselves.”
Qi Xing picked up his glass of red wine, took a step forward, and walked towards the person without hesitation.
Lin Zhinian had just finished exchanging ideas with a foreign art collector when he turned around and noticed someone staring at him without any reservations.
It was a young man with an extravagant and handsome appearance.
His expression paused slightly.
Qi Xing approached and raised his glass to signal him.
“Sir Lin, I’ve long admired you.”
Lin Zhinian asked, “Do I know you?”
Ten minutes ago, they didn’t know each other, but now they did.
Without blinking, Qi Xing lied, “I’m a fan of your paintings, sir Lin.
I’ve attended several of your exhibitions before.
I didn’t expect to meet you here tonight.
What a coincidence! My name is Qi Xing, and I’m delighted to have this opportunity to meet you, sir Lin.”
Lin Zhinian almost immediately guessed his identity.
With the surname Qi and not appearing to be accompanying anyone, he could only be from the prestigious Ronghua Capital Qi family, which was currently very influential in Huai City.
When it came to the Qi family, almost everyone in the upper class of Huai City was aware of them.
The founder of Ronghua Capital, Qi Ronghua, was a local peasant with only a high school education who came to Huai City to make a living just over a decade ago.
In that short period, he first made a fortune in the catering industry, then ventured into hotels and real estate, entered the entertainment industry to make quick money, followed by financial investments, and even dabbled in the high-tech internet industry.
It was clear that he pursued wherever there was money to be made, and his luck was astonishing.
He made a fortune in every field, making people envious of him.
Those days, even the arrogant “old aristocrats” in Huai City looked down on Qi Ronghua and mocked him as a new rich, but they still had to greet him with a smiling face when they met him.
Lin Zhinian was somewhat surprised.
He had never met Qi Ronghua, but he had heard many sarcastic remarks about him and his family, and he didn’t have a good impression of them.
The young master Qi in front of him, although appearing silly, had a demeanor that was not inferior to his companions who had grown up receiving elite education.
Moreover, Qi Xing’s appearance was exceptionally attractive.
Qi Xing’s wine glass was brought in front of him, and Lin Zhinian calmly clinked glasses with him.
Qi Xing continued to talk about Lin Zhinian’s paintings, which he had just searched for on his phone.
He spoke confidently and without any awkwardness.
Lin Zhinian could sense it, but he responded with a smile without exposing him.
Five minutes later, a gentle male voice interrupted them, saying, “Zhinian, come over here.”
They both turned their heads simultaneously.
It was Ye Xingzhou, who had just finished talking with someone a few meters away and called Lin Zhinian over.
When Ye Xingzhou’s gaze swept over Qi Xing, it seemed to pause on his face for a second.
Qi Xing also casually scrutinized him, and in the instant their gazes met, he instinctively felt the coldness in Yeh Xingzhou’s eyes.
It wasn’t obvious, but it was impossible to ignore.
That feeling made Qi Xing very uncomfortable.
This person was clearly not someone easy to get along with.
Only Yang Kaiming, that fool, would think he was good natured and was easy to get along with.
Ye Xingzhou withdrew his gaze, and Lin Zhinian said “Excuse me” to Qi Xing and returned to his side.
Qi Xing took a sip of wine and his gaze remained fixed on Lin Zhinian.
Seeing the somewhat intimate vibe between him and Ye Xingzhou, he seemed to suspect something.
Yang Kaiming followed and listened to the entire conversation, teasing Qi Xing, “I think that great painter didn’t realize that you actually don’t understand his paintings at all.”
Qi Xing remained calm and said, “So what? He still smiled at me.”
Yang Kaiming laughed, “That’s true.”
Ye Xingzhou led Lin Zhinian to the dessert table, and Lin Zhinian whispered to him, “The person who just introduced himself as Qi should be Qi Ronghua’s son.”
Ye Xingzhou wasn’t interested and replied, “If you find it annoying, you don’t have to pay attention to him.”
Lin Zhinian observed his expression.
When Ye Xingzhou said this, his face remained calm, and it sounded like comforting words, but he didn’t care at all.
Soon, more people came to toast Ye Xingzhou.
He picked up a plate and casually picked up a pastry to hand it to Lin Zhinian before engaging in conversation.
The several people who came to toast were slightly surprised by the scene and discreetly observed Lin Zhinian.
The Lin family’s status was no longer what it used to be.
If Lin Zhinian had come there alone that day, without the reputation of a famous young oil painter, few people would have paid attention to him.
Ye Xingzhou openly showed his care for him in front of others.
If Lin Zhinian were a woman, the insinuation would be almost self-evident.
People would only marvel at the Lin family’s good fortune and the opportunity to rise again through a daughter’s marriage.
However, he happened to be a man.
He is a man… but perhaps that’s not a problem?
Regardless of what they thought in their hearts, everyone present was discerning, and their smiles remained unchanged as they flattered Lin Zhinian.
They even included Lin Zhinian when exchanging pleasantries and toasting.
Ye Xingzhou’s face maintained its usual warm and gentle expression, empty of the domineering presence of someone in a higher position.
It gave people the impression that he was still young, and his rise to power might just be an illusion.
As Lin Zhinian listened to the insincere compliments about his paintings from the people around him and caught sight of Yeh Xingzhou’s unchanged smile, he drank the wine, suppressing the complex emotions surging within him.
On the other side, Qi Xing’s gaze leisurely followed Lin Zhinian, and he asked Yang Kaiming, “What kind of relationship do those two have?”
Yang Kaiming also saw the scene just now and coughed lightly, “I don’t know.
I’ve never heard any rumors about Ye Xingzhou like that.
Qi Xing, not everyone is like you.
But who knows, whether they are or not, I advise you not to set your sights on him.”
“I won’t,” Qi Xing smiled as he looked at Lin Zhinian’s softer profile under the bright lights.
“I just took a liking to him.”
Yang Kaiming said, “But what if they really do have that kind of relationship?”
Qi Xing lightly tapped his finger on the glass, his voice rising, “So what?”
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